Reed Johnson is ready to prove that he still has what it takes to be the Chicago Cubs’ everyday starting center fielder. Johnson exceeded expectations with the Cubs during the 2008 MLB season. He played in 109 games after being picked up right before the season started when the Toronto Blue Jays released him at the end of spring training. In 333 at-bats, Johnson hit .303 with a .358 on-base percentage. He scored 52 runs and drove in 50 more runs, and played great defense wherever Cubs Manager Lou Pinella decided to put him in the outfield.
For the 2009 MLB season, Johnson is looking to take hold of that starting job in center field instead of platooning with left-handed hitting Kosuke Fukodome. Johnson recently stated: “I want to prove not only to this organization but let people know I’m not finished as an everyday guy yet. That’s kind of been my mentality throughout the whole offseason to gear me toward being in shape for this.” Johnson dropped some weight in the offseason to get in better shape and hopes to avoid any back issues that have sometimes developed during the course of a long MLB season. Johnson has also spent extra time with hitting coach Gerald Perry to work on hitting better against right-handed batters. Johnson was an everyday starter for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2003, 2004 and 2006, so he knows he has what it takes to get the job done day in and day out.
And while he knows that Pinella likes to give his players extra days off during the season, he has already let Pinella know that he wants, and is ready for, more at-bats in 2009. We’ll see how this spring develops. If Fukodome cannot demonstrate early on that he is ready to handle major league pitching on a regular basis, Johnson could get his wish for more playing time.